What happened with gift card sales on Black Friday?

2019 was our first proper foray into Black Friday. Last year we had just launched the platform and we didn’t have the tools available to run promotions. Looking at the stats, last year the total turnover of our customers in Black Friday week was £761… A year on, and we have about 40 customers operating around 400 hospitality locations, by Friday we’d exceeded around 200x that revenue.

Black Friday has been a thing in the UK for a good few years, but has only recently been adopted by hospitality. Here’s a good article from the Telegraph that goes into the history. 

Reports released by Barclaycard said that transaction value up 16.5% compared with last year with the volume of transactions up 7.2%.

So, on to some quick stats. 

Before we share the highlights here’s the lowdown. 

  • Our stats are for the 24 hours of Black Friday only, although most of our clients ran the activity over the whole weekend.
  • Our stats are from our Togglers only, we’ve not looked at data from elsewhere.
  • There’s a broad range of clients: casual dining, fine dining & late night.
  • Where we’ve included demographic info, it’s where a customer is using both Airship & Toggle.

People love Black Friday. Sales were up around 900% on a normal day around this time of year – which is already pretty high!

Digital is king. 65% of all sales were digital. 27% were postal orders, and 8% of gift cards were purchased in-store. The split between digital and physical is in keeping with normal stats, but a higher percentage of cards were done online rather than in-venue on Black Friday. This is likely just due to the online marketing nature of the day.

Emails are the main driver. The vast majority of sales were prompted by email – it seems people are expecting it. Nearly half of all sales through Toggle can be linked back to an email sent through Airship, so this doesn’t take into account other email activity we didn’t have oversight of. Subject lines that were explicit about Black Friday and the discount available seemed to do the best.

Discounting works. When we run through these stats in this section, ‘value’ means the face value of the card purchased, which is different to the money taken when considering the discount. The most popular discount by our Togglers was 20%, and this seemed to do the trick. The average value of the gift cards sold with 20% off was 127% the value of gift cards sold without any discount. We saw a bit of a drop off in average value of cards purchased with a 25% discount.

Gift cards appeal to a broad age range. The day’s biggest spenders span across a large age range. Right from 26 to 55 years old. There was little to differentiate within this range, but 26 – 35 year olds did just top the spending totals. Beyond the 26 – 55s, 18 – 25 and 56 – 65 were next, where total spend was half of their middle aged counterparts. Spend dropped off substantially after 65+ years old.

You’ll sell all day, but with spikes at 12pm and 8pm. Purchases climbed quickly throughout the morning, starting in earnest at 7am, and climbing to a peak at midday. (The most popular hour in the day, when close to 10% of all sales were done.) The sales dropped off after this, until another sharp peak at 8pm.

Summary

Customers are happy to pre-buy credit with you for a discount. The interesting point here is that around 20% of gift cards expire after 12 months. Our feeling is that customers actually buy for themselves so it might be that the ‘breakage’ (when card value expires) is less than 20%. Time will tell. 

Remember, all the revenue here is just the start for our clients. People will not often stop spending at the value of their gift card, and they’re not likely to come alone. Where a customer has bought a card as a gift, we know that 18% of those recipients will become a regular customer, their potential first visit heightened by the fact that their visit is already paid for.

We’ll soon be releasing a new tool that allows gifts and experiences to be valid between dates and expect to see a surge of activity around January Sales where the customer needs to use the card within a certain period.

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